Alberta Health Services (AHS) announced Thursday it would drop the masking requirement for staff, patients and visitors in all its hospitals and contracted sites. The verdict came weeks after they made masks optional for frontline workers in areas inaccessible to patients.
The province's new health minister, Adriana LaGrange, said the UCP supports the decision.
"Albertans are ready to move forward, and Alberta's government supports AHS returning to pre-pandemic policies when it comes to masking," she said in a statement.
LaGrange said the agency decided to make masking optional in all situations based on COVID data in the province. Declining COVID hospitalizations, hospital admission rates for respiratory illness, and COVID positivity rates contributed to the board's decision on Thursday.
However, the health minister confirmed they consulted with doctors, frontline managers, patients and advisory councils before ending the continuous mandate.
Heather Smith, president of the United Nurses of Alberta, said nurses anticipated lifting the mandate sometime after the provincial election.
"It's hopefully a safe time to do it," she said. "I guess we will find out over time whether or not this was the right moment."
Smith told the CBC that some healthcare workers experienced "mask fatigue" following three years of pandemic restrictions.
"For some, I think that there is a level of fatigue, and they welcome [the change], particularly if their point of care assessment would say they are not at risk and their patients are not at risk," she said.
According to AHS guidelines, healthcare providers must still wear a mask if a patient requests.